What I learned during the first semester of my graduate program by Taehyun Lee

by Interaction Design February 18, 2022

Preface

As an undergraduate student, I had a great dream to study abroad. I decided to pursue the SVA Interaction Design master’s degree program because I expected the program would help students to build networks as UX designers, not to mention the practical and professional curricula.

Upon getting a foot in the door in New York, I felt that everything around me was unfamiliar, and I was worried about learning many things and experiencing something new. With this uncertainty and worries, my first semester had already begun.

Pic of IXD student Taehyun Lee's tote bag that he received the first week of school. Pic of IXD student Taehyun Lee's tote bag that he received the first week of school.

This is when I first came to the studio.

My first semester at SVA flew by as I familiarized myself with New York life. I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn many things, such as programming skills (Python, JavaScript, C/C++) and research methods (color coding, co-design workshops), and have valuable experiences during my first semester. I am so proud of how much I had grown compared with when I first arrived in New York.

Now, I will share what I learned during my first semester at SVA.

1. How to handle friction within the team

Illustration of two people running in opposite directions used to describe the conflict faced when working in teams. Illustration of two people running in opposite directions used to describe the conflict faced when working in teams.

Most of our classes at SVA IxD involved team projects. I teamed up with as many as four to five classmates with different backgrounds but all pursuing UX design.

As you know, it is difficult to avoid friction in team projects, since people have different perspectives on the approach to problems, visuals, and even colors.

Upon encountering a situation such as friction, how should we overcome it and progress in the project?

I attempted to carefully listen to my colleagues’ opinions to empathize with them. However, if I could not understand them, I asked my colleagues using what-if phrases to identify whether I missed something and what they needed to consider.

Upon having to persuade my teammates about my design, I presented clickable prototypes to help them clearly understand my intention. Moreover, I was receptive to receiving their feedback. I always said, “Feel free to give me feedback,” or I frequently asked them how they honestly felt about my design and idea.

As such, even though we experienced some arguments throughout the team project, I could address these problems and maintain a great relationship with my colleagues after the project ended.

2. How to become a strong team player

Illustration of a person helping another person up stairs used to describe  what it was like to work in teams. Illustration of a person helping another person up stairs used to describe  what it was like to work in teams.

As an undergraduate student, I always sought to lead and coordinate team members’ efforts as a team leader. However, during my first semester, I realized that playing the role of a strong team player is likewise valuable.

When people do not know one another, it is difficult to recognize them as colleagues at first due to the lack of information and trust. I always wanted to leave a great impression on my teammates.

People have different specialties. Some are good at organizing documents and managing schedules, while others are good at visual design. We sometimes divided tasks based on each team member’s specialty for the sake of efficiency but still supported one another.

In contributing to the team as a team player, I felt a great responsibility for my task, and I wished to satisfy my teammates with my contribution.

Upon receiving compliments from my teammates such as “It looks amazing!” or “It’s perfect!” regarding my design, I was thrilled. In this way, my colleagues acknowledged my ability and trusted me as a reliable team player. This was different from what I felt when I led the team. Reflecting on how I could gratify my teammates enabled me to contribute as a strong team player.

Image of Slack conversation showing messages of support and constructive criticisms regarding Taehyun's projects and how he appreciated working in teams. Image of Slack conversation showing messages of support and constructive criticisms regarding Taehyun's projects and how he appreciated working in teams.

Thankfully, I received considerable support from my teammates, particularly in terms of writing and speaking. They helped me to prepare for a presentation, and I did my best to avoid making any mistakes. I appreciate all the teammates I worked with during my first semester. Thanks to them, I completed all the team projects with much pleasure.

Group photo of IXD studentsYi Li, Zhoufang Zhang, and Taehyun Lee standing in front of their physical computing project. Part of first semester experience of author. Group photo of IXD studentsYi Li, Zhoufang Zhang, and Taehyun Lee standing in front of their physical computing project. Part of first semester experience of author.

I look forward to gaining valuable experience in working on team projects during the following semesters.🌟

Thank you for reading my story about what I learned during my first semester. :)